Reading for the GMAT: The Economist

GMAT Reading Comprehension - image by Magoosh

Get the most out of reading for the GMAT

Not surprisingly, one of the best ways to prepare for GMAT Reading Comprehension is simply to read.  Not surprisingly, one of the best sources of reading as you prepare for business school is a weekly news magazine called The EconomistThe Economist is one of the most intelligent weekly journals in print, and it brings a highly sophisticated perspective to all issues affecting micro- and macroeconomics.  Its articles explore economics, politics, demographics, technology, etc.  It targets the highly intelligent.  If you can understand tone and implication in Economist articles, you will have absolutely no problem with these tasks on GMAT Reading Comprehension.  If you read The Economist regularly between now and the time you take the GMAT, the familiarity you glean with national and world issues also might serve you well on tackling an AWA Issue or Argument Essay.  If you make a habit of reading it, that will give you an edge in business school, and after that, and edge in the business world.


How to Practice for GMAT RC

All that’s great,  but how do you get the most out of reading The Economistit right now for GMAT Reading Comprehension?  Here are my suggestions:

1) Read actively, with paper and pencil. Practice summarizing briefly each paragraph, writing this in shorthand on paper, just as you will write on the notepad on test day.

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2) Always summarize for yourself, in ten words or fewer, the main idea of the article, then double check that each paragraph plays a role in supporting that main idea.

3) Practice looking for “signal” words — (“although”, “however”, “but”, “nevertheless”, etc. etc.) —words that indicate a shift in the direction of the argument

4) Always ask yourself while reading: is this a neutral perspective, or is the author arguing for or against something? The Economist tends to have a balanced tone and a subtle wry sense of humor, so it’s a particularly good source for this, because it doesn’t hit you over the head with tone. Exactly what words and phrases in the passage provide the hints for tone and the author’s perspective?

5) Once you have sorted out the main idea & role of each paragraph, go back to some juicy or memorable detail — why did the author mention that? How does that detail support the paragraph? How does it support the main idea of the whole passage? (I can guarantee that every single syllable in the The Economist serves a specific purpose.)

6) Really advanced — pick an intriguing article and pretend you are GMAC. Write a set of 3-4 questions on this article. What would be particularly GMAT-like things to ask? You know they will ask for the main idea — can you come up with tempting-sounding decoys for wrong answer to that question? Can you formulate detail questions? tone questions? etc. The more you practice writing these question, and creating your own tempting-sounding wrong answers, the easier they will be to spot on test day.


Practice with Others

You can get even more out of this if you convince a couple of your friends to join you, forming an Economist-GMAT-RC study group.  Imagine there are four people in such a group, and you all agree to read a particular article from The Economist. Let’s say you draw from a hat — one person has to create a main idea question, one has to create a tone question, one has to create a “purpose of this paragraph” question, and one has to create a detail question. Each person reads the article and creates his/her assigned question, and then the next time you meet, each person has three other questions to answer. One of the best ways to understand the logic of GMAT questions is to try to write them yourself!

Magoosh has a series of video lessons on GMAT Reading Comprehension.  If you sign up for Magoosh and watch those lessons, and read The Economist weekly, and meet with friends to study those articles, you would become a GMAT Reading Comprehension pro, and by test day you would be handling this question type with ease.

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Here’s a sample RC question from inside Magoosh.


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16 Responses to Reading for the GMAT: The Economist

  1. Turkzi December 8, 2019 at 10:34 pm #

    I can understand the passage, but when I try to eliminate all the incorrect alternatives, I always need to take my best guess between 2 options. I can make correct choices when I review my incorrect ones in practice mode, but the issue is how can I choose the correct one first time. When I review my incorrect sentence correction questions, I will be told that this one sounds awkward so it is incorrect. I learn English as my second language, how can I determine whether the sentence sounds awkward?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 3, 2020 at 11:39 am #

      Sorry to hear that you’re struggling, but I’ll be glad to give you some advice!

      For the reading passages, try to answer the question in your own words before you ever look at the answer choices. That way, you make sure that you understand the question and have found the evidence in the passage before the answer choices get a chance to mislead you. Try to find the answer choice that most closely matches your understanding of the passage, and you shouldn’t have to choose between two.

      Sentence correction questions are challenging, even for native speakers. But remember that the correct answer must be grammatically correct, state its point clearly, and be consistent with the style of the non-underlined part of the sentence. If there is more than one answer choice that meets all of those criteria, then you should choose the one that is the most concise and to the point.

  2. Aditya ghai June 6, 2016 at 12:18 am #

    Dear Sir,
    I am engineering student and as you mention to do “The Economist” I have started that but I want to ask how to prepare for other portion and what to learn from same magazine.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 6, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

      Reading practice with The Economist and other similar sources is primarily useful for improving GMAT RC. But you’re right to think that you can also build other GMAT skills with the economist— both in Verbal and in other GMAT sections. You can definitely build Critical Reasoning skills from reading practice, by carefully analyzing the articles for argument quality and use of evidence. And for Sentence Correction, you can pay close attention to the use of grammar, mechanics and style in the articles you read. Knowing what proper writing looks like can help you make proper revisions in GMAT Verbal SC.

      Outside of Verbal, reading practice can help you with AWA, partly because AWA requires you to analyze things you read, and partly because reading good writing helps you learn how to create good writing of your own. To a lesser extent, articles in the Economist can help you build the math and text comprehension skills you need for integrated reading– at least in the case of Economist articles that are especially data heavy.

  3. Paula February 17, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    Hello Mike !

    I started studying for the GMAT in November and my test is scheduled for March 5th. I’m from Brazil and English it is not my first language. I lived in the USA for 2 years though my English is better now. I didn’t do well on my 2 prep tests and I felt that I have trouble mainly with the timing. I struggled a little bit in Math and Reading Comprehension. I’ve been thinking to reschedule my test, however I can’t take it later than March. I’m aiming a score of 500 and any advice would be very appreciated!

    Thank you.



    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 21, 2016 at 7:12 am #

      Hi Paula,

      Great question! 🙂

      A 500 is definitely not impossible in your position, though March probably feels like it is approaching way too quickly! I would spend your time focusing on the most impactful concepts. For example, in verbal, be aware of the main SC splits that are going to occur: if you are comfortable recognizing basics like subject-verb agreement, verb and verb tense agreement, pronoun agreement, and paying close attention to modifiers and modifier placement. It is possible to do very well with just those few SC skills solidified.

      For CR, I think the most important struggle I can point out is that you must focus on the specifics of the argument and ignore any answer choices that don’t directly address the linear logic of the argument. Sometimes there’s not just one answer that is a possible correct answer, and you want to identify the best answer.

      In addition to using your RC skills, this requires you to identify what really matters in a question and also to recognize trap answers when you see them. If something doesn’t clearly relate to the logic of an argument presented to you, move on to find a better answer and don’t be confused or dissuaded by irrelevant information or halfway good answers.

      For RC, when you read, it is key that you look for the tone, main point, and organization/structure of passages as you go. Many students try to read the question first and look for the answer, but this will take you far too long overall. Generally, students do best if they read the entire passage deeply to comprehend its meaning and components, then answer the questions. You want to make sure you are actively reading these passages to get the best outcome.

      The single most important piece of advice I can give is to think like a testmaker: you are not supposed to be perfect at all math and verbal concepts, but you must demonstrate business school-level of attention to detail, ability to manage time, and recognition of core important facts. If you can do that, you’ll definitely get your 500+!

  4. vardhaman lodha July 3, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    Hello dear Mike,

    i have been struggling a bit with RC with around 50 percent accuracy..i have subscribed for the economist..i hav 3 months for gmat exam..could you please suggest how many articles should i work on every day on average to better in RC?it would be a great help if u could help me out with this issue….thanx mate.. 🙂

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike July 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

      Dear Vardhaman,
      I’m happy to respond. 🙂 Well, the Economist magazine comes out one a week. Ideally, you would read the entire magazine during the course of the week, so that would be a few articles every day. If that is way too much, I would say: read for at least 1 hour every day. That’s 1 hour, over and above any GMAT preparations you are doing. Does this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

      • Vincentino December 11, 2015 at 12:12 am #

        Hello sir. You have mentioned about reading the economist magazine. The magazaine has so many articles under different categories. Which category of articles would you want us to read.It can take upto 20 mins to read a artucle and understand itbcompletely.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 29, 2016 at 11:51 am #

          Hi Vincentino,

          Sorry to reply to this so late! I’m going to answer hoping that it helps you and future students with the same question. 🙂

          In The Economist, most articles will be a great way to sharpen your RC skills, so you can choose anything that catches your interest, although the business and economy articles in particular will get you thinking in a GMAT way. It’s okay if reading the articles takes you a while–you are working on vocabulary, critical thinking, and reading comprehension all at the same time. Engage your active reading muscles and dig into whatever Economist articles you choose. This process, if done over time, will help you to improve in the GMAT verbal.

  5. Abhi September 25, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Hi Mike
    I want to improve my reading Skills regarding GMAT RC’s.
    Could you please suggest me some study material?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike September 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

      Dear Abhi,
      First of all, one of the most important things you can do to prepare for the GMAT RC is just to read, read, read. The Economist is excellent material. You can find out about more here:
      Practicing GMAT RC questions without having a daily habit of reading on your own is almost pointless.
      Here’s a blog article with a free practice RC passage + questions.
      If you sign up for Magoosh, you will get lessons on RC, as well as multiple original practice GMAT passages & questions. Because of the combination of lesson videos, as well as explanation videos for each question, I would recommend Magoosh.
      Mike 🙂

  6. the variable x August 4, 2013 at 3:47 am #

    Sir, I am a first year student of engineering, and I wish to crack the gmat. How exactly should I start preparing?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike August 4, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Dear X,
      If you’re an engineering student, it sounds like the math will not be a challenge. Keep reading, as I recommend in this post, especially about business so that you develop intuition for that world. As the time approaches, I would recommend following one of the study schedules in the right margin of this page.
      Mike 🙂

  7. rizzi1234 April 2, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    I found myself struggling with English preparation for Bank PO exam, and needs an exhaustive study guide as well as ideal preparation medium for cracking IBPS exam. I have a query, I found an English course at… is it good enough to enroll at?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike April 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

      Rizzi: unfortunately, I know zilch about this site. I found this article about WizIQ on Wikipedia: It says that anyone can be a teacher —- unlike Magoosh, where instructors are rigorously selected, it appears that anyone can go on WixIQ and say they want to teach. Given that, it’s just not clear to me how helpful it is going to be. Maybe very helpful, maybe not. I can’t tell. I know that the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it — I don’t know if that is possibility for you. Magoosh would give you excellent help with English grammar. As for WizIQ, I don’t know — I just don’t know what to say about it. Sorry.
      Mike 🙂

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